Colon Cancer can
be prevented with Early Colonoscopy Screening
Experts from the American College of Gastroenterology say that not
enough people in the United States get screened for color cancer.
Katie Couric host on NBC’s Today show lost her husband, Jay, to
colorectal cancer in 1998. Researchers have noticed a slight increase
for people getting screened with a colonoscopy since she has become an
advocate for the disease. Researchers from the University of Michigan
have called it “The Couric Effect.”
Although Couric has helped gain awareness and increased the screening
for colon cancer there is still a shortfall in the number of people that
get a colonoscopy. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention in 2002
said that there were only 41 percent of men and women over the age of 50
who had colonoscopy screenings in the last five years.
“We know that colon cancer screening saves lives. Yet colorectal
screening rates remain very low even though Medicare and many private
plans pay for screening tests,” said Dr. Jack DiPalma who is President
of the American College of Gastroenterology.
Part of the reason for people not getting screenings is that it is not a
comfortable and simple procedure. Another obstacle is that Medicare
makes it more difficult to get a colonoscopy in the elderly patients
that need it the most.
Dr. DiPalma said, "Pending legislation in the U.S. Congress, such as the
Colon Cancer Screen for Life Act (S.1010/H.R. 1632), promises to remove
Medicare’s barriers to screening, but only one small improvement, the
waiver of the Medicare deductible, was approved for 2006, so much
remains to be done."
The American Cancer Society said that there is an estimated 148,000
people in the United States that are diagnosed with colorectal cancer
every year. There will be around 55,000 deaths caused by colon cancer.
The reason that early screening can save lives is that it can be
treated. When a colonoscopy is performed they look inside the colon for
pre-cancerous growths that are called polyps. Colon cancer is prevented
when the growths or polyps are removed early during the colonoscopy
The American College of Gastroenterology recommends that people over the
age of 50 get a colonoscopy screening every 10 years. They also say
that other alternative screenings are available. There is an annual
stool test for blood and also a flexible sigmoidoscopic exam that is
every 5 years. The sigmoidoscopic exam however does not allow for the
image and removal of the polyps.
If you have a family history of colon cancer it is recommend that you
start at age 40 or 10 years younger then the age of the youngest
relative who was first diagnosed with colon cancer. African Americans
should begin screenings at the age of 45.
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